Where else in the world can you hop from the city to the rainforest, or from the red Australian desert (via incredible botanic gardens) to a national zoo where you can sleep beside a cheetah or bear – all within a 15-minute drive from each other? Nowhere, that’s where…
Canberra offers an incredible diversity of nature and wildlife experiences, all accessed with ease from the capital city. All you need is a car and a sense of adventure. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
1) Get bird’s-eye views from Mount Ainslie, which you can walk, cycle or drive to from the city centre (it will only take you a few minutes to get there). Survey Canberra’s skyline from this the top, which also attracts walkers, wildlife and photographers. Unsurprisingly, it’s especially dreamy come sunrise and sunset…
2) Desperate to see a ’roo? They’re there to admire at Weston Park, which is on the western side of Lake Burley Griffin. Pause for a picnic and a game of petanque (kids will love the sandy beach and playground).
3) Grab your hiking boots: Canberra has plenty of bushwalking options. The Canberra Centenary Trail is a 90-mile loop that traverses some of the city’s headline attractions. Keep your eyes peeled for echidnas, wombats, wedge-tailed eagles and platypus (which are shy and nocturnal, so don’t take it personally if you don’t spot one).
4) Spectacular views (plus kangaroos and emus) await at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, which is a short drive away from Canberra’s city center. The reserve is home to a wetlands ecosystem and plenty of bushland. Thanks to predator-proof fencing, you can also expect to encounter native wildlife, including elusive koalas, platypus and wombats, resident and migratory birds and glittering reptiles. Tidbinbilla runs a breeding program for the endangered brush-tailed rock wallaby; spot them in their enclosure.
5) Segways may never be a style statement, but they’re undeniably fun: hop on one and tour Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra’s iconic centerpiece.
Local tip… ‘The best hiking spots are the Booroomba Rocks, which are nice and easy; Gibraltar Rocks (good outdoor rock climbing); Gibraltar Peak (a bit longer at 5 miles, but with amazing views); Gibraltar Falls and Mount Ainslie (go at dawn or dusk for the best kangaroo-spotting).’
6) If your wildlife hunts have been less than successful so far, hit the National Zoo & Aquarium, where jaw-dropping, eye-popping creature-spotting is guaranteed. It gets better than just looking, too: you could pat a cheetah, befriend a meerkat, feed a bear or meet a dingo. The zoo’s wild residents include lions, tigers, giraffes, penguins and monkeys; it’s also home to the largest inland saltwater tank in Australia. Forget walking on the wild side – sleep on the wild side by staying at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, the zoo’s on-site safari lodge (rates include an impressive selection of food, drinks and animal interactions).
7) Sleep in the Australian bushland with help from Blue Skies Adventure Tours, who organize camping trips (with all equipment provided) in the national parks near the city. Blue Skies also offers tours of Tidbinbilla, a city tour and a Blue Waterholes adventure tour.
8) On your bike (for the Lake Burley Griffin ‘bridge to bridge’ loop). Choose from the shorter 3.1 mile route, which starts at Kings Avenue Bridge and ends at Commonwealth Avenue Bridge (and takes in Parliamentary Triangle and its heritage heavyweights), or step up to the sweatier 18-mile stretch. Wheel your way through the National Gallery of Australia’s Sculpture Garden; pause at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House or grab an ice-cream from one of the pop-up cafés along the way.
Passengers flying to Canberra with Singapore Airlines can enjoy spending their Changi Dollar Voucher while in transit in Singapore. This retail voucher (valued from S$20) is offered by Singapore Airlines to use in Changi Airport, as part of the Changi Transit Programme. The voucher is valid for use across almost all retail outlets, including the Ambassador Transit Lounge, food and drink outlets and even duty-free.